Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Colorful Truth

There was a sweet moment today. My seven year old white son wanted to read a book to my 9 week old black son. And he wanted to read "The Colors of Us," a book that helped me first introduce him to the concept of a multiethnic world. It had new meaning for us this morning- he picked out which skin tone was like his and which one was like his brother's. And it was beautiful moment.

Just a few weeks ago we had a conversation about Martin Luther King, Jr. We didn't gloss over what happened to him. We talked about what he stood for and why he matters today and why he was killed. Our son didn't understand why people would hate and murder someone simply for his color and the message he brought. And so the conversation we started several years ago with him continues. Racism exists. He is going to see it. And he is going to see it even more up close because he is going to see his brother experience it. And that will make him more than see it- he will experience it himself.

You see, we started his racial education long before his black brother came home. We started it as soon as he was old enough to understand that there are differences between people, long before we knew if our adoption would bring home a baby of color. Most of us white people don't bother educating our young children about race. We take the "colorblind" road, thinking that if we don't talk about it our kids won't think there is anything different about their friends who look different from them. But the thing is, if we don't actively educate, we can be darned sure someone else is going to actively educate them or, worse, our passivity will be an education in itself. Our white kids will be raised thinking racial conversations are wrong, are racist in themselves. They will fear the deeper conversations that need to happen for true reconciliation. Worse, they might discount that racism exists at all, ignore the stories their friends of color may risk sharing with them. Make no mistake, there are differences between us- the colors of our skin are different, they are beautiful, they are made with purpose and they are in God's image. That is beautiful. Sadly but realistically, because we live in a very broken society, we are treated differently, unjustly, because of them. It's not right, it's not good and I wish it weren't true but to ignore that truth is to invite ignorance.

So our home library will continue to grow. We will read The Colors of Us and Martin Luther King, Jr's biography for kids. We will watch movies whose heroes are not white, movies that mainstream white America have ignored as irrelevent. We will read books with Asian protagonists. We will talk about black history and Asian-American history and Native American and Latino history during more than just the months that our country sets aside for their celebration and we will sing worship songs to God in as many languages and styles as we can master, remembering daily the picture of a diverse heaven in all its perfection. We will put art up around our home that reflects that creational diversity and attend festivals and performances and churches different from my own background. We will remember the sins of our fathers (and no, my family wasn't here when slavery existed but I have benefited from its legacy nonetheless) and will work actively to raise two sons who know they are loved by a God who thinks they are beautiful and of deep worth. God willing, we will raise sons who will have a voice for justice and equality, who will stand up for each other and for the deeper messages of racial reconciliation.

And one more thing. I don't claim to be an expert in any of this. I am learning right alongside my children. I was raised colorblind and it wasn't until my young 20's that I began to think about any of this. I will stumble along the way, I will need gracious and patient help from friends who understand more than I do about all this.

But there is one thing I do know.

If we never say anything, we will only teach them silence. And silence has proven again and again that it can be just as damaging as overt hate.

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